The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Getting your pocket picked without your knowledge

Bruce Schneier linked to this Wired article about Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tags. It will fascinate or terrify you, depending on how thorough and disciplined you think the implementations will be. Choice passage:

"I was at a hotel that used smartcards, so I copied one and put the data into my computer," Grunwald says. "Then I used RFDump to upload the room key card data to the price chip on a box of cream cheese from the Future Store. And I opened my hotel room with the cream cheese!"

Cool...?

"Congress is a Joke:" Motley Fool

I don't agree with everything Motley Fool columnist Bill Mann says, but I think in essence he's correct:

My editors hate it when I call people idiots. But I mean it. Our elected officials are either stupid, or they think enough of us are stupid that they can say stupid things and we'll just thank 'em for it. ... Pay $100 from the federal Treasury to compensate Americans for high gas prices? Are you people completely, utterly devoid of brain matter?
You want to blame $3 gas on something? Fine, let's start with where blame should go—on $0.95 gas.

I think he's right that cheap gas hurt in the long run, but I'm not sure that the free market justifies the enormous profits oil companies are reaping. I'll think more about this.

The #1 Safety Procedure

I had planned to take two co-workers up for a sightseeing flight around Nashua last Tuesday, but the 500-foot ceilings and 24-knot winds argued against it. So we postponed until today.

The terminal area forecast right now calls for northeast winds at 14 gusting to 24 knots with 5,000-foot ceilings, with both winds and ceiling diminishing to 12 knots and 1200 feet respectively by 9pm (01:00 UTC).

So, once again, I'll use the #1 Aviation Safety Procedure: "staying on the ground."

Phooey. I wanted to fly.

Really frustrating part about being out of town

My office building decided to wash windows today. I am not in my office building; I am, in fact, 1,330 km (826 mi) away. Despite clear instructions to be careful with the Inner Drive Webcam, and to replace it when done washing the windows...well... Let's see what happens in the next hour, because I don't want to stare at this for the next four days:

This is on top of a strange "image freeze" issue I've had for about three weeks. I'm looking into that as well, as much as possible from New Hampshire.

The damn thing ran flawlessly for four months. This is most aggravating. Nothing has changed—except possibly a Windows 2000 patch mid-April, which may be the source of the problems.

Update (10:25 CT/15:25 UTC): My building manager is on top of it. The window washers are apparently taking a long time. She graciously turned the webcam for me so that it now points to something more interesting: the other wall.

It doesn't take a conspiracy

Paul Krugman (sub.req.) confronts the wingers who try to divert rational thought by crying "conspiracy theory:"

A conspiracy theory, says Wikipedia, "attempts to explain the cause of an event as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance." Claims that global warming is a hoax and that the liberal media are suppressing the good news from Iraq meet that definition. In each case, to accept the claim you have to believe that people working for many different organizations—scientists at universities and research facilities around the world, reporters for dozens of different news organizations—are secretly coordinating their actions.
But the administration officials who told us that Saddam had an active nuclear program and insinuated that he was responsible for 9/11 weren't part of a covert alliance; they all worked for President Bush. The claim that these officials hyped the case for war isn't a conspiracy theory; it's simply an assertion that people in a position of power abused that position. And that assertion only seems wildly implausible if you take it as axiomatic that Mr. Bush and those around him wouldn't do such a thing.

I can imagine Limbaugh looking thoughtful for a moment before saying: "Thanks, Paul! That sure clears things up!" But I have a very vivid imagination.

Fun with expensive toys

I'm still getting to know the Canon 20D that Anne gave me last month. I've introduced it to my (15-year-old) 80-200 zoom that hitherto has hung out with my old EOS Rebel film camera. Because the image sensor on the 20D has only 63% of the area as a pane of 35mm film, lens lengths are extended 1.6x, making the lens, in effect, a 128-320 zoom. Combine that with bright daylight and selectable ISO speeds, and you get 1/3200 shutter at f/5.6, which eliminates camera shake:

Sadly, after carefully examining the raw version of this photo and the lens I used to take it, I have discovered that the 20D forgives absolutely nothing. Here's a detail of the original without any processing (though at higher compression than raw). Notice the subtle blue shimmer along the branch edges, and the general lack of focus? I believe those are lens artifacts. Given the dust visible inside the lens (in the sealed parts where cleaning is impossible without dismantling it), and the aging of the visible lens surfaces, I think it's time for a new long lens.

Wonder what his rent was...

Rocky Raccoon checked into a room. Here's the AP story:

Raccoon found atop Loop skyscraper

A wayward raccoon has been living on top of a 43-story building in Chicago's Loop.
A construction manager didn't believe it at first when a worker reported seeing the raccoon on the 36th floor of the Kluczynski Federal Building, but a cell-phone photo provided proof. The critter was climbing scaffolding at the building, where the facade is being restored.
Construction boss Tony Slavic used tuna to bait a humane trap on the roof and eventually captured the raccoon. On Tuesday, he released it into a forest preserve in suburban Chicago.

CIA chief steps down

Central Intelligence Agency chief Porter Goss has abruptly resigned his post. His office swears this has nothing at all to do with the hookers-and-parties scandal inching ever closer to him.

Says Josh Marshall:

We don't know definitely why Goss pulled the plug yet. But the CIA Director doesn't march over to the White House and resign, effective immediately, unless something very big is up.

I'll be watching this story.